Biosecurity Measures For Poultry
It is essential for poultry keepers to act responsibly in the way they keep their birds, and it also becomes a legal requirement at any time when Defra introduces an ‘Avian Influenza Prevention Zone’ in your area. So what should you do?
Common sense and good practice are all that is really needed, along with an understanding of the Defra requirements, so please read below to make sure you are doing your best for your birds.
Avian Influenza Prevention Zones:
When there is a risk of highly pathogenic bird flu, Defra may impose a Prevention Zone in your area, or in times of increased risk – across the whole country. This puts a legal requirement on poultry keepers (or any captive bird keeper)* to put in place enhanced biosecurity measures, however with a good setup and good practice, this should not be difficult to achieve. The requirements are as follows:
- Minimize movement in and out of bird enclosures
- Clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a Defra approved disinfectant at entrances and exits
- Keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
- Humanely control rats and mice
- Place bird food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
- Keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access
- Keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet.
*keepers of more than 500 birds must take extra biosecurity measures, please refer to the Defra website or contact us for advice.
In times of high risk, additional restrictions may be enforced, we therefore recommend all poultry keepers stay aware of the current situation or register your flock with the Animal Plant and Health Agency to receive direct updates. Further advice can be found at:
Mantel Farm’s Help And Advice
For Good Biosecurity
- Minimize movement in and out of bird enclosures:
There is no need to stop enjoying time with your flock, however, plan your visits. Combine visits with essential care such as providing food and water, checking all is well and egg collecting. Always practice good hygiene.
- Clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a Defra approved disinfectant at entrances & exits:
Set up a simple footbath near the entrance to your chicken run (a large bucket or tub-trug is ideal) with a solution of Defra approved disinfectant. We recommend BioVX, a UK Defra approved powder. A separate set of footwear is also advisable and keeps things really simple. Keep the solution clean, changing regularly.
- Keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways:
Keeping any livestock area clean and tidy is key to good poultry health, not only will it meet the Defra requirements, but it will make their care more pleasurable and help to prevent all poultry pests and diseases.
There are many disinfectants available for poultry keepers and being conscious of the environment we have always recommended the more natural products available, steering away from the unnecessary use of harsh chemicals. This we continue to do and our recommended products for general day to day cleaning are Poultry Shield and BioDri. However, there is a place for stronger disinfectants and periodically (say monthly) you should give the poultry house a thorough clean with a Defra approved product such as Bi0 VX.
Keeping the ground of your pen clean and dry, also plays an important part in maintaining the biosecurity and comfort of your birds. No birds are happy in wet muddy conditions. A simple answer is to provide a thick layer of woodchips across the run. This gives the birds a surface to scratch around in and keeps the floor dry, so making it easier for your access also. We recommend applying BioDri to the outside pen, this super-absorbent powder extends the life of the bedding and is a fresh smelling powder that is nonhazardous.
Application of Poultry Shield:
Make a litre of solution by adding 200ml of Poultry Shield concentrate to 800ml of water. To clean, sanitise and odour neutralise your coop:
Remove old bedding and excess litter
Spray interior areas and equipment with poultry shield solution. Pay particular attention to the roof structure, joints, cracks, crevices and perches.
Leave to soak for 1 hour, then brush clean.
Application of BioDri:
A fresh smelling nonhazardous powder suitable for use with animals and birds of all ages.
This powder is extremely effective in absorbing liquids and ammonia gas, inhibiting the growth and spread of bacteria and other harmful organisms.
Add 1 cup per square meter on top of the animal bedding.
Application of BioVX:
BioVX is broad spectrum and effective against bacteria, fungi, yeasts and all known classes of virus. Being Defra approved and bio-degradable, its superior dilution rates make it a highly cost-effective solution for foot baths.
Dilute 1:200 in a suitable container to act as a footbath.
- Humanely control rats and mice:
Preventative measures for rodent control are essential, being able to act early, knowing how to prevent and control a rodent infestation is key. New laws came into effect in April 2016, restricting certain rodenticides to professional certified users only. This has meant a change to the products available for 'garden farmers' to purchase. Pack sizes are now limited to 1.5kg, however, we can still offer a range of products from bait stations, pastes, blocks and traps. With a controlled approach these pack sizes should be enough to keep rodents under control, and if they are not successful a professional pest controller should be consulted. More information can be found on the CRRU website: www.thinkwildlife.org
- Place bird food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly:
Unless there is a full restriction zone in your area, a Defra prevention zone does not require you to keep your birds in a fully enclosed run, it does however require you to feed your flock in fully enclosed areas. This seems a little tricky; as if your hens can get out of the area it would seem possible for wild birds to enter. You must therefore do your best to ensure the feed and water containers are placed undercover to prevent access or contamination by wild birds. Placing feed on the ground or in uncovered troughs to which wild birds can gain access is not permitted.
The ideal solution to this is to have a fully enclosed run adjacent to your poultry house. This is something we always recommend to new poultry keepers, as there are many benefits of such a setup. Ideally, this run would have a solid (e.g. Onduline) roof, or be covered in netting or willow screening. Screening also works well around the sides of the run, preventing wild birds from accessing larger mesh. This run can then (if large enough) be used to keep your flock in permanently, or if you like to free-range your birds, the door can be opened in controlled times when feeders can be removed.
Spilled feed can be kept at a minimum by using a purpose-made poultry feeder. We recommend the types that are filled from the top with anti-scratch fins around the base. Avoid mixing your feed, birds are selective and will pick out the best bits, flicking the other on the floor. Keep corn as a treat, fed separately from the main feed. Feeders with adjustable fin height mean you can also restrict the flow of feed to minimize wastage. Where possible always hang your feeder, if this is not possible then place the feed off the floor on bricks or concrete blocks. Don’t forget to regularly clean your drinkers and feeders, Poultry Shield is ideal for doing so.
- Keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access:
Where birds are free-ranging, the Defra guidelines are as follows:
- Outdoor range areas (all outdoor areas where poultry have access) must be fenced to keep birds within the range and must be actively managed by the keeper to ensure that the range area is not contaminated with feathers or faecal material from wild birds and take all reasonable steps to remove such contamination that may be present;
- Access to open or standing water is restricted by fencing off and netting ponds, standing water, or waterlogged land to prevent access by poultry or other captive birds;
- There is no direct contact with poultry or other captive birds on other neighbouring premises;
- Feed and water are kept and birds are fed indoors or under a covered area which sufficiently discourages the landing of wild birds and thereby prevent contact by wild birds with their feed or water;
- Wild birds are not attracted to the vicinity of the outdoor area, in particular to standing water or ponds;
- Measures are taken to discourage wild birds, in particular gulls and wild waterfowl, from entering the fenced outdoor areas;
- Any carcases of wild birds are removed from the outdoor fenced range area; and
- There is regular cleaning and disinfecting of all concrete walkways, paths and similar surfaces to which poultry or other captive birds or wild birds have access.
- Keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet:
Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of bird flu you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.
If you keep poultry, you should keep a close watch on them for signs of disease, and maintain good biosecurity at all times. If you have any concerns about the health of your poultry, seek prompt advice from your vet.
How to spot avian influenza:
There are 2 types of avian influenza.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the more serious type. It is often fatal in birds. The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds are:
- Swollen head
- Blue discolouration of neck and throat
- Loss of appetite
- Respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
- Fewer eggs laid
- Increased mortality
Clinical signs can vary between species of bird and some species (for example ducks and geese) may show minimal clinical signs.
Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.
The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses.
Please remember the above signs are guidance only, and unfortunately many of them are common in other poultry issues and behaviour – for example ‘Fewer laid eggs’ can simply mean the bird is having a rest, moulting or it is a breed that just goes off lay in the winter.
So, our advice is: don’t panic, but know your flock, enjoy your birds, and act responsibly.